For while now I've wanted a fresh carving mallet, so yesterday I made one. It's the second from the left here:
The third along has been my main carving mallet since Caroline got it me for my birthday years ago. It's very good, 3" diameter lignum vitae (from Craft Supplies , which btw used to be a couple of miles from my mother's house, handy, but now they're in Bradda). It is a bit lightweight for some tasks, and showing signs of wear. I was prompted a year or two back to make the monster on the left (from a chestnut burr I think) to deal with the weight issue, but overdid it a bit. I rarely use that one, too heavy. On the right is a palm mallet (you hold it in your palm) I made from a single scrap of boxwood a while ago, that's very useful. At the time I didn't realise boxwood was used for mallets, but have read about it since and it makes sense - it's dense and fine-grained, takes compaction well.
Boxwood grows at the bottom of the village, and I've been lucky enough to snaffle a few pieces when it's been tidied up. I'd got a chunk from 2009 which looked as though I could get a good 4" cylinder out of it, so cleaned it up and slapped it on the lathe. I forgot to take a photo at that stage, but here's the handle (from another scrap of boxwood) on the lathe, virutally finished - I put some beeswax polish on the handle proper:
Unfortunately once I'd got the head evened up there was only about 3" diameter. The boxwood also seemed lighter than lignum vitae. So I decided to leave the head a little longer to add weight, and augment it a bit. My cunning plan was to insert a slug of lead into the hole I'd drilled in the head to take the handle. There's kind-of a precedent, you can get brass and bronze woodcarving mallets (like these), and I've actually got some iron stonecarving mallets that are very similar. But no way I'm going to start destroying gouge handles by using a metal head against them.
Anyhow, cue metalworking equipment:
I melted lead from some old pellets in a tuna tin resting on a couple of stones with the blowtorch and used a bit of wood as the mould (with a hole drilled using the same bit I used to drill through the handle). As you can see, first attempt I had a little accident. But the result of the second attempt is in the middle of the pic, split out of the mould. It's 2cm in diameter and 3cm long, by my calculation that makes it about 100g (I would have liked to compare the weights of the mallets but I couldn't find the kitchen scales).
I cut the part of the handle that was to go through the middle of the head about 1/2 the way up, put the lead slug above that followed by the rest of the through-piece, all liberally spread with epoxy. I left it gluing overnight:
After a bit of final cleaning up I just tried it. A definite success. It's only a wee bit heavier overall than the old mallet, but does have noticeably more wallop and the balance seems ok:
That's one of my biggest gouges, wasn't very good with the old mallet, needs more weight.
In the pic at the top I'm showing off the good side of the new mallet, here it's the other side - not quite as pretty :)
PS. Just remembered, I should point out the rest of my hammer collection (and I have 3 or 4 more now). All useful!